NY spending $1.5 billion to boost pay for those assisting people with disabilities

Posted 18 November 2021 at 3:11 pm

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the New York Office for People with Developmental Disabilities will provide over $1.5 billion in one-time American Rescue Plan Act Funding to support recruitment efforts, retention incentives and vaccination bonuses for direct support professionals who provide support for people with developmental disabilities in an effort to address workforce shortages in this field.

“Direct Support Professionals provided essential support to people with developmental disabilities throughout the pandemic when we needed them most, in spite of the risk to themselves and their own families,” Governor Hochul said. “We owe these workers a debt of gratitude and the American Rescue Plan funding paves the way for bonuses, incentives and one time pay raises to help keep these hardworking, loyal and devoted workers doing what they love most, supporting people with developmental disabilities.”

New York State submitted its initial draft spending plan to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the enhanced federal funding provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on July 8, 2021. The CMS has provided partial approval of the plan as it relates to the workforce.

As approved, OPWDD’s plan targeted most of the funding to workforce initiatives, including payments to provide bonuses to DSPs and family care providers. OPWDD plans to invest the one-time ARPA funding in workforce improvements and incentives including:

  • A “Heroes Fund” which will provide incentive payments to those DSPs who worked during the unprecedented pandemic with additional payments for those who received the Covid vaccine.
  • Retention and longevity bonuses will make additional investments in the workforce by rewarding longevity and providing additional bonuses to staff who remain in the DSP workforce.
  • Long-term recruitment and retention strategies which will be developed and tested with funding for projects that address the long-term stability of the workforce. Funding will be made available to incentivize credentialing and other strategies that build skills and competency of DSP workforce and front-line supervisors.

Erik Geizer, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc New York, said, “Our essential workforce is the foundation of supports and services for New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and these funds represent the first step in what we hope will be a sustained investment in our workforce. We are very pleased to hear the waiver was approved, and grateful to state leadership for ensuring the funds will be directed to address our most critical needs.”

At this time, these disbursements are only available to family care providers and direct support workers who are employed by voluntary service providers, including staff who deliver services under the self-direction program. Discussions are ongoing regarding state employed direct support workers.

Acting Commissioner of the New York Office for People with Developmental Disabilities Kerri E. Neifeld said, “Direct support professionals provide essential services to people with developmental disabilities so they can lead rich and rewarding lives of their choosing. They are the backbone of our system and they bravely showed up to work throughout the pandemic to care for and support some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers.  Although the work is emotionally and physically taxing, direct support is a labor of love for the people who choose this career.”